Alyssa Yankwitt is a poet, photographer, teacher, bartender, documenter, and earth walker. Her poems and photographs have previously appeared in Fruita Pulp, Gingerbread House, Penwheel.lit, Metaphor Magazine, Red Paint Hill’s “Mother Is a Verb” anthology, The Lake, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Spry Literary Journal. Alyssa has incurable wanderlust, enjoys drinking whiskey, hates writing about herself in third person, and loves a good disaster. You can visit her artist page here:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alyssa-Yankwitt/609514002467835
Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?
Probably Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. She’s such a complicated and complex character, passionate and impulsive. She’s a wild and free-spirit, but I always felt she was struggling to truly be free. Also, her ghost comes back to haunt the man she loved. That’s pretty hardcore.
What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?
I don’t think I could choose just one. Three huge influences would have to be: Sonia Sanchez’s, Like the Singing Coming off the Drums, Sandra Cisneros, Loose Woman, and Kim Addonizio’s, What Is This Thing Called Love.
Sanchez’s work affected me due how lush and sensual her poems are. There is such a musicality to her writing, both in sound and on the page, specifically through her use of colloquial language and the way she would use the page as well. Reading one of her poems is like having someone whisper a secret into your ear; that intimate and that important.
Cisneros’ work affected me because of its boldness and bravery. I remember when I first came to her poetry thinking: damn, these are bold and brave poems. There were poems about affairs with married men, about the complicated line between being a female Mexican-American and how her family viewed her as “old maid” because she was unmarried at 30. These poems are from a book titled “Loose Woman.” Cisneros’ words are unafraid and unapologetic. That’s the kind of writer I strive to be.
Addonizio’s work affected me in a similar vein as Cisneros, but it went a step further. Her work too is unafraid and unapologetic but there’s also an edgy grit to it. Reading her poems feels like someone slapped you across the face and then gave you an incredibly passionate kiss. It’s frenzying. But there’s also a delicateness to the poetry; it can break your heart, sometimes two or three times in one poem. Again, this is a balance I try to attain in my own writing.
How did your work/works in Alyss come about?
My poem, “Allen at 25,” came about after the suicide of one of my closest friends. As most suicides are, it was unexpected. A huge bond that Allen and I shared was reading and writing poetry. I found out after that many people didn’t know he even wrote poetry, including his family. They only found out after his death. It took me a long time to write this poem, I think in part because it was also me coming to terms of his actions. It made me wonder what had such a powerful grip on his heart that he couldn’t talk about these important things. Why he couldn’t tell his family about the poems. Why he couldn’t talk about what made him want to end his life.
What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?
I was in a grocery store with a friend and we ran into one of her friends, who worked there. Our mutual friend went to introduce us (and I had no clue who she was) and before the introduction the girl said, “I know you. I saw you read at the poetry reading a few weeks ago.” She then went on to recite her favorite poem I read (which was unpublished), nearly word for word, to me.
What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue One and why?
Nazia Jannat’s, “Self Portrait for Whiskey Kisses.” First, because I love whiskey (and whiskey kisses) and second—which I think really sums it all up—is the line “no more ashamed of being ashamed.”
And from Issue Deux?
I am going to choose two. First is Jen Stein’s “Moving Day in April.” I love this poem for its repetition and its sound. And the sound isn’t simply the word choices but the imagery as well. This poem, in the guise of a whisper, is screaming, wailing, singing, and howling. This poem broke my heart in the most beautiful way.
Second would be Merie Kirby’s “At six I wanted to marry Godzilla.” I found it clever and loved all the imagery of water and liquid, from the obvious ocean to the slurping of bowls of noodles and drinking tea. Also, I maybe wanted to have marry Godzilla at one point, too.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got a couple of chapbooks I’m trying to find a home for. So any publishers or presses who like my work, please feel free to contact me. Yes, I did just shamelessly self-promote.
You can keep up with my work on FB artist page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alyssa-Yankwitt/609514002467835
as well as on Instagram: bklyn_chaos
Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?
Well, me of course!